The Ancient and Modern of Israel
After a stunningly beautiful drive north this morning, we arrived at the Misgav-Am kibbutz on the Lebanon border. We heard an insightful talk from the founder of the kibbutz on the unique geopolitical challenges they face. Gaining insight into the history of this area caused me to consider how unlikely Israel's ability to survive the constant attacks were as they defended themselves in 1948—except for the sovereign hand of God.
Banyas was a Greek city on an active trade route dedicated to the god Pan. For a short time in history, it was controlled by Rome and named Caesarea Philippi. Jesus brought his disciples here, away from the crowds that were following him. But why would He bring His disciples to the heart of Greek paganism with its idols and religious debauchery? He was preparing the disciples for ministry and showing them the great contrast between Himself and the false gods. It is here Jesus asked, not just what others thought about Himself but directly asked his disciples: “Who do YOU say that I am?” It is right here in this place where Peter proclaims: “Thou are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” While the name Peter does mean “rock,” and he and the disciples were God’s human agents in the development of the church, Jesus was the cornerstone, the rock in which the Church was built. Followers of Pan believed the cave at Banyas was the gateway to Hades. What a lesson the disciples learned that day when they understood that Jesus was going to do something that was unlike the pagan Greek system that was prevalent in that city.
We then traveled on the road to Damascus and stopped for lunch at a Druze village restaurant named Al Sultan in Maasade for a traditional meal. After lunch, we stopped briefly at the border of Syria for a history lesson. Seeing the bordering countries of Israel really prompts one to pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Ps. 122:6). https://www.bibleplaces.com/banias/
On our way back to the Sea of Galilee, we stopped at Gamala, the Masada of the north. Gamla is a town that was set on the side of a mountain and was defeated by the Romans. Many fought until the end and jumped to their death so they would not be captured by the enemy. https://www.bibleplaces.com/gamla/
The area where tradition says Jesus shared the Beatitudes with His disciples is a quiet setting on the Sea of Galilee. We took the time to read the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount (Mt.5—7). The first set of Beatitudes speak of our relationship to God, the last set speaks of our relationship to others. For those that were expecting the Messiah to be a conqueror of Rome, this was a radical message. It speaks of meekness and peacemaking not overthrowing an oppressive government. Jesus—also knowing that the disciples listening would one day die for Him and face persecution—encourages them by relating what they will face to that of the Old Testament prophets, prophets like Elijah who was persecuted by Ahab and Jezebel. I imagine that the disciples remembered the words of Jesus when they were going through their hardest times, that their reward is great in heaven (Mt. 5:12). https://www.bibleplaces.com/mtbeatitudes/
Near the end of our afternoon, we visited the Jesus boat museum dedicated to a 2,000-year-old boat that was discovered and preserved. The boat was made from several species of trees, all of which are planted on the beautiful grounds of the museum. Before heading to dinner, we shopped at the Museum's gift shop for souvenirs unique to Israel.
Tonight’s meal at Lido Decks restaurant was exceptional. We sat overlooking the water on a perfect night and ate family style, as many courses of food were served. We enjoyed lamb, chicken, steak, and salmon. There were fresh pita and hummus, salads, delicious sides, and desserts. We had a meaningful time of fellowship before heading back to the hotel.
Blog author: Steve Conover
Executive Vice President
The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry
Photos: Becca Stover